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Belgian Bishop Admits to Abusing Nephews, Says It's No Big Deal, Is Now on the Run

By carolyncastiglia |

catholic abuse scandal, catholic priests, pedophilia

74-year-old former bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who thinks molestation is no big deal.

In an addendum to last week’s mind-blowingly offensive assertion by the Catholic League that sexual abuse in the Church is caused by “homosexuality, not pedophilia,” and that some children willingly participated in the abuse, a Belgian priest made a televised announcement on Thursday admitting that he sexually abused two of his nephews, diminutively describing the molestation as just “a little game.”

As you can imagine, this “caused an uproar in Belgium on Friday, with the prime minister, senior clergy and a prosecutor expressing shock at the way the ex-prelate made light of his offenses,” the Associated Press reports.  The priest, 74-year-old Roger Vangheluwe, the former bishop of Bruges, contends that he was never naked, therefore the abuse was never about “real sexuality.”  Vangheluwe declared, “I never felt the least attraction to a child” and denies being a pedophile.

Okay, sure.  So why touch your nephew for 13 years, from when he was 5 to 18, then?  Vangheluwe dismissed the severity of his offenses by saying, “From me toward him there was a bit of intimacy that occurred each time we saw one another.  And of which we later said, ‘That’s not right.’”

The current bishop of Bruges says “All (Belgian) bishops are astounded” and Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Belgian bishops expressed “the feelings of astonishment and worry that were generated by the interview.”  The Vatican has ordered Vangheluwe to “no longer work as a priest while officials determine his punishment,” but Vangheluwe said “he would never voluntarily leave the priesthood,” according to the AP.

Reuters reports:

Church law has no provision for defrocking a bishop.  But Belgian theologian Rev. Gabriel Ringlet told Belgian television that this should not stop (Pope) Benedict from taking decisive action.  ”The pope should say loudly and clearly, ‘I deeply regret that our law does not permit it, but morally I consider that this bishop is no longer part of our family’,” he said.

Later, they add, “It’s not clear how much control the Church has over the rogue bishop now anyway. Officials have confirmed to Belgian media that he will get his 2,800-euro state pension regardless of his standing in the Church.”

It remains unknown then if Vangheluwe has accepted the Vatican’s decree to stop working as a priest (whatever that means – he’s a priest unless he’s excommunicated, whether he’s saying mass for the public or not), but as of Friday, Vangheluwe was nestled safely in “a wooded Catholic retreat in Ferte-Imbault in central France,” where he was sent by the Vatican for “psychological examination,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

They write, “Catholic practice through the abuse scandal has often been to give its disgraced priests and bishops space and time to rest and reflect.”  It’s clear there’s not a lot of reflecting going on in Vangheluwe’s mind, as “throughout the interview, he sat relaxed, sometimes smiling and at times shrugging his shoulders as if to signal that the events he spoke of were not very serious,” the AP says.

Regarding the handling of the worldwide sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, Vangheluwe proved that Catholic League president Bill Donohue’s opinions aren’t very far removed from some in the priesthood.  Vangheluwe asked the interviewer, “Why is it different for priests than for other situations?  Why should the church pay compensation and there is no compensation in other professions?” he asked. “The church should not be pushed in a special corner.”

Exactly.  The church should not be pushed in a special corner.  Which is why priests who have committed sex crimes should not be shrouded in a secluded retreat in the woods of France.  (According to Reuters, Vangheluwe “left the secluded monastery near Orleans on Saturday after it complained about all the media attention his presence had caused.”  He boasted to reporters that he’d “received a massive amount of offers of lodging, both from monasteries and from individuals” and that “hundreds of people have expressed their support by sending a letter or card.”)  But to answer his question, perhaps the reason victims of Catholic priests are being paid by the Church is because the Church knows these victims can’t enjoy the satisfaction of seeing their attackers punished by the judicial system.  Or maybe it’s hush money being offered in the hopes that those who were abused won’t write tell-all books.  I don’t know.

Either way, offending priests need to come out of hiding – and if there are gay priests who have taken refuge in the Church and solace in chastity, and I’m sure there are, they need to quit the priesthood and come out of the closet.  (I’m not saying gay men can’t be chaste, I’m saying choosing chastity as a way of dealing with/avoiding your sexual orientation seems like an unhealthy choice, and though it may not manifest in kid-touching, will likely be harmful in another way, at the very least to the priest making the choice, especially given that the Church teaches that homosexuality is a sin.  What kind of intense self-loathing do you have to have?…)

The Catholic Church now has a policy of screening potential priests for pedophilia and other conditions via psychological evaluations, but in 2008, Father Bresciani, a psychologist and adviser to the Congregation for Catholic Education told the press, “It is obvious that a psychologist who is closed to the transcendent, who denies the significance of chastity or is closed to certain values that are proper to the Church, cannot assist in the maturing of a vocation toward the consecration of one’s life to ministry.”  In other words, they only take psychiatry seriously to the extent that it affirms what the Church believes in.  That means the Church is going to continue to face problems with its priests until it wakes up and joins the 21st century, allowing priests to marry and acknowledging that the vow of chastity is in one view likely to blame for much of the sexual abuse that has occurred.  At this point, I believe we’ll see the second coming of Christ before we see change in the Church, and I don’t believe in the second coming of Christ.

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About carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Belgian Bishop Admits to Abusing Nephews, Says It's No Big Deal, Is Now on the Run

  1. lam says:

    Anyone in church administration knows that they will not have enough priests if they exclude homosexuals. The church has been the only refuge for homosexuals growing up in devout families. With no hope of acceptance, and the very real potential for being shunned completely by family and friends, going to seminary is often the only way out, particularly for young people with families already suspicious of their homosexuality. Don’t ask, don’t tell, and don’t get caught or you’re on your own seems to be the church’s official position on homosexual priests. Also, a priest can’t simply quit, he must be released by his governing diocese. This can drag out for ages and is completely at the whim of the archbishop. And what of his education? His career? His pension? Who will employ a person whose only experience, ever, is in the church? Why would someone even consider this when homosexuality among clergy is recognized and tolerated by church administrators as long as the priest in question keeps up appearances and doesn’t get busted? Just because they cooperate with an oppressive system doesn’t mean they hate themselves, although I’m sure some do. Young pedophiles growing up in devout families may also seek refuge from their urges and from the scrutiny and temptation of the secular world by going to seminary and becoming priests. But as mounting evidence suggests, one cannot suppress sexual urges, whatever they may be, without very serious, perhaps insurmountable, difficulties. Regardless of all of this, when it comes to the sexual corruption or abuse of children, the church must be legally accountable in all circumstances.

  2. Patrick O’Malley says:

    The Catholic Church is the “Church Of Child Rape”.

    The Pope, their brilliant leader and head pedophile protector, has known about this since last year, and must take time to make the decision that anyone with a heart or soul would make in 5 minutes.

  3. Barry Landers says:

    The bishop is right. Under church teaching, any sort of sexual relations outside of marriage is a sin – but it is one of many sins. Hatred is a sin that has done far greater harm that a little gentle touching; so is covetousness, and sloth, and gluttony. Worrying is a sin as well – and look at the harm THAT has done, when people people worry about non-events and hound people to their deaths as a result?

    http://www.whatsonsanya.com/news-15547-brit-teacher-neil-wilkes-texts-girl-8-to-say-i-love-you-then-sets-fire-to-self.html

    It’s only since the 1960s that anybody has thought that this was a big deal, and that because psychologists and feminists deliberately lied about the harm done because the truth wasn’t getting people worked up enough to suit them.

    I’m no fan of the Catholic religion (some of my ancestors had to flee France after the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, after all), but the religion of psychology is just as irrational and probably more harmful.

  4. Bunnytwenty says:

    Wait… is someone above actually saying that being abused by a pedophile isn’t tremendously harmful to children? Are there really people insane enough to believe this?
    Also: I’m really disturbed that people are cheerfully and casually conflating homosexuality and pedophilia, and claiming that celibacy is the problem. Going without sex for years doesn’t drive men to abuse little kids – decent men, whether sex-deprived or not, wouldn’t ever touch a little kid. Celibacy isn’t the issue – the fact that the Church has traditionally been a safe place for pedophiles to hide is the issue. Let’s get it straight here, guys.

  5. Manjari says:

    I don’t understand religion. Shouldn’t all abusers be prosecuted in a regular court of law?

    And I’m horrified by Barry Landers’ comment. What a sicko!

  6. William Annett says:

    That’s cool, Bishop. So if it’s no big deal, suppose we throw your ass into an open prison yard and you can figure out that what happens is not big deal

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